Cultivating connections and sharing the gospel in southern Brazil

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Missions

Nicoleti Tennis Court Prayer

William Nicoleti never planned on praying at the tennis court where he takes lessons, even though he says his backhand is “very bad.”

His coach surprised the global worker in southern Brazil one day, asking Nicoleti to come and pray. The business owner wasn’t concerned about his student’s swing; he wanted God to be honored and included as they opened a new tennis court.

“He asked me because I built a trust relationship with him,” Nicoleti said. “It’s happened after six months of playing tennis.”

Nicoleti’s tennis coach lives as one of 76 million people in a least-reached swath of South America served by Converge’s Southern Cone Initiative, which is working to reach Argentina, Uruguay and South Brazil with the gospel.

“This is sort of a step of faith for him to welcome prayer,” William said.

Converge’s global workers seek to catalyze a gospel movement here, where less than five percent are Christians, to help many others take their next step.


Bonding with pastors is part of the Lord’s work to make disciples through churches

William and his wife, Liz, serve national pastors and their families in the same manner he cares for his tennis coach: by building relationships and providing gospel-centered support and Christian love.

They visited a church planter who serves a Southern Cone town of 10,000 in October. The Nicoletis said the man has no one else to help with leading the service, and he’s so isolated from other spiritual leaders that he had no one nearby to dedicate his three-year-old son.

But William stepped up in love, serving the man and his family so they could have the week off from organizing a worship service. Plus, William and the family set aside time to dedicate the boy that Sunday so his family could live as disciples, not just ministers in the unreached community.

“It’s huge to be able to help and encourage other pastors and leaders,” Nicoleti said.



They had a Land Rover in Africa but a calling to Brazil

The Nicoletis embrace that privilege because William’s been a pastor. They met in 2005 while Liz learned Portuguese to prepare for a career in Bible translation with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They married and served in Guinea-Bissau, driving across rugged terrain in a yellow Land Rover to remote communities that needed Scripture. 

The couple stayed in the African nation until 2013 and then moved to Brazil. William planted a church in his hometown, but discovered he had the heart of an evangelist missionary.

“I enjoy sharing the gospel, sharing Jesus with somebody who has not heard about Jesus,” he said.

They met Jonathan Matthews, who lived in the same city then. So they started praying with Matthews, who now leads the Southern Cone Initiative, and joined his team and relocated to southern Brazil.

Related: You can pray monthly with pastors and global workers from the Southern Cone — and many other locations worldwide.

The region needs prayer, more workers and increased gospel ministry because millions of people trust in riches and themselves rather than God. The Southern Cone’s least-reached realities are rooted in people of European descent. They usually experience religion as a cultural tradition, not a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, the Southern Cone Initiative is asking God for a movement through gospel proclamation, disciple multiplication, community engagement and church planting. 

Kingdom partnerships strengthen indigenous leaders in gospel practices

Liz Nicoleti said people in the Southern Cone realize religion is not cutting it when they have life struggles common around the world. But, unlike many places, Southern Cone residents have difficulty finding people who the gospel has transformed. 

There are very few churches, and many pastors are young and in their first vocational ministry opportunity. But William’s heart to love and care for people like his tennis coach also empowers him to befriend 15 pastors with high potential for making disciples. 

Related: Read how another Brazilian pastor leads a Southern Cone church.

Nicoleti eagerly forms kingdom partnerships around the region, which complements a Southern Cone Initiative priority: connecting and training leaders in the best practices for creating gospel movements.

“It’s very important to have this network of pastors,” he explained. “That makes the effort last longer and go farther.”

He said the pastors learn together about the practicalities of ministry, such as how to care for their congregation or preach well. 

A topic the team has never had to discuss is the quality of William Nicoleti’s tennis skills. For the record, Liz said her husband’s backhand is not as bad as he says. 

Not that William regrets the last time he prayed on the court.

Converge International Ministries is asking God for a gospel movement among every least-reached people group — in our generation.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

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